Mayor Douglas French announced at the beginning of the regular Rye City Council meeting last night that Councilmember Suzanna Keith, who is planning a family move to Houston, TX, . French praised Keith saying, "She brought a lot of insight...passion and community rapport. In 30 months, [she] accomplished more than people do in a full term."
Two women expressed an interest in filling the now vacant council seat. Longtime Rye residents Julia Killian and Charmian Neary publicly announced their interest in serving the remaining time on Keith's term.
In addition to Killian and Neary statements of interest, there was additional discussion on whether the vacancy should be filled at all. , asking the Council to articulate their criteria for filling the six month layover, especially since it will run concurrent to an election campaign for the very same seat in November.
Neary, in fact, initially rose to speak in favor of not filling the temporary vacancy.
"I firmly believe it is in the best interest of bipartisanship…to leave it alone," said Neary. "Petitioning [for the November election] starts in three weeks…every move they [the interim councilmember] make on the council will be seen through that lens." Neary acknowledged previous mayoral administrations had decided to fill council vacancies, but noted those mayors selected appointees outside their own political party to maintain ideological balance on the dais. "Let's not make this a political punt, let's just leave it and let the voters of Rye decide in November."
Only Councilmember Catherine Parker, lone Democrat on the council, expressed a desire to leave the seat vacant altogether. "I'm in favor of leaving this open," said Parker. Regarding the possibility of 3-3 ties if the seat were left vacant, Parker said it would be just as detrimental if the council consistently decided issues based on a 4-3 split. The vacancy might push councilmembers to avoid the appearance of partisanship, she suggested, "it would force us to work us together." [Editor's note: earlier version mistakenly quoted Councilmember Parker as saying 4-1.]
Mayor French emphasized there was no partisan agenda in filling the seat. "I try to run the council like a board of directors, I'm probably the least political person on the council."
Even though there seems to be a 4-1 consensus among the councilmembers in favor of filling the vacancy, shows there may be some room for further discussion. As of Wednesday night, the results of the unscientific online poll revealed respondents preferred leaving the seat vacant. Mayor French said he would keep the question open until the June 13 meeting.
Julia Killian was first to address the council and express her interest in the temporary term. She has lived in Rye for 20 years and has an undergraduate degree in Chemical Engineering from Notre Dame and an MBA from New York University Stern School of Business.
Kilian, a registered Republican, told Rye Patch she did intend to run for election to the council in November. She said she does not consider herself partisan, however.
Though she maintained her position the seat was best left vacant, Charmian Neary told the Council she was uniquely prepared to assume the temporary position. "I think that I can start tomorrow," she said. Neary recounted what she described as "30 years of experience" working on both sides of the political aisle. Neary said she had worked for Gov. Mario Cuomo as well as New York City Mayors Ed Koch and Rudolph Giuliani.